The WI movement began at Stoney Creek in Canada in 1897 when Adelaide Hoodless addressed a meeting for the wives of members of the Farmers' Institute. The first British WI meeting took place on 16 September 1915 at Llanfairpwll on Anglesey in North Wales. The WI was originally set up in the UK to revitalise rural communities and to encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War.

Leigh WI was formed in 1917 and meetings were held at at what is now the old School House.  During the 1930s, this was no longer possible so a Mrs E K Staines, a WI member at that time, offered a freehold parcel of  land from her farm – Hook Farm, to the WI for a hall to be built. At Hook Farm Mrs Staines ran a very successful business breeding St. Bernard dogs, called Abbots Pass Kennels. After the hall was built, using money from donations and fund raising events organised by the WI, it was appropriately named Abbots Pass Hall, in recognition of the major benefactor.  The hall is still owned by the Leigh WI.  However, in 1988 ‘the hall’ was reconstituted as a Registered Charity and has since been run on a ‘not-for-profit’ basis by a separate management committee for the benefit of the residents of Leigh and its environs.

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